Nicolas Lemieux

[March 1997] [August 1998]

Here are two messages I posted to the Buteyko mailing list. The first was posted in March 1997, after three months of Buteyko exercising, and the second I posted today, as a follow-up. I think these two messages are a good account of my story as an asthmatic; they tell how I discovered Buteyko, how I learned it and how I used it to wane out of all my asthma medication. They are also a good account of my progress, so I think they will be interesting to many; I therefore believe they are well worth posting here. (a.s.a., August 1st, 1998)

March 31st, 1997

March 1997] [August 1998]

Hi Peter, Christopher, Louise, Robert, Iain, Harriet, Betty, Vladimir and all,

This is my first message to this group, although I have been reading the list for months. My first contact with the technique was on (a.s.a.) about a year ago. I was then living in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, as a student of music, opera, voice, singing.

I'm thirty and a life-time asthma sufferer. It started at two years of age after months of intense eczema; or so my parents told me. As a child, I was on Intal, amynophilyn, tavist and sudafed. My asthma was relatively stable provided I hadn't any contact with animals like cats, dogs, horses, or didn't eat any fish.

In the mid-seventies, I remember the first time my doctor explained to me this new-effective-but-strong-and-might-be-dangerous-drug: Ventolin. He told me and my parents I was to take it only in case of extreme emergency, like instead of driving to the ER.

Then we spent three years in Paris, France, where, as an early teenager, I progressively started to "manage" my asthma myself. This means I began using more and more Ventolin, guiltily hiding the fact to my family. Now there was seldom a day I would take less than two or three puffs... Anyway, back in Quebec City, in 1978, my new doctor had a completely opposite attitude towards Ventolin: this time, I had to take four puffs a day, needed or not, plus theophyllyn, plus Fivent when needed. No more warnings. He also told me I would be cured after a few months... a few years later he put me on steroids: bronalide first, then becloforte, one puff twice a day, then two puffs twice a day. Once when I was fifteen, I spent a whole week at the hospital; they wouldn't let me out because they knew I'd be coming home to... my sister's rabbit!

Years later, I also tried yoga, homeopathy, and acupuncture, and it seemed to help a little bit, but always only in the short term. Of course, I have always believed that singing also could be of some help, but my condition just stayed the same, even after 14 years of singing lessons (with lots of ventolin).

When I happened to read about buteyko on the newsgroup (May 1996), I asked Peter to send me Buteyko's paper, which he did (boy was that technical! :^)), and I collected whatever articles I could find on the technique, and started experimenting on myself. What I found was that it helped my singing right from the beginning. I would walk to my voice lesson counting how many steps I could hold my breath after breathing out, or holding it for five steps, breathe in and out, hold it again... My throat just felt so relaxed and energized!

Then I got tired of the arguments on a.s.a. and stopped reading about it, but it always stayed in the back of my mind.

A few months later, around last December (1996), I checked a.s.a. again, and I learned about the web site. I spent hours going over every bit of information I could, and I subscribed to this marvellous list.

Actually, I had found a way of making some extra money out of my asthma: Back in Montreal since September, I was a subject on studies for pharmaceutical companies. And I was on one around the holidays, which is why I had to wait before I could seriously begin the exercises. This is quite funny: The study consisted of five entire days, each of them separated by a whole week, where I simply had to take a dose of a tested new environment-friendly inhaler containing just common bronchodilator (probably salbutamol or serevent, I'm not quite sure) or a placebo. But in the morning of those study days, my FEV1 had to be between 50% and 70%, or they would send me home. Whenever I didn't qualify, I had three chances to try that particular "day" again.

At the beginning of January (1997), I couldn't wait any longer to try the Buteyko technique, so I did. And for the first time in decades, I experienced three days without ventolin! (I had always had to take 3 - 7 puffs a day...)

But I still had one day of study to complete: I had to re-try it three times because my FEV1 was always too high! What I did is that I actually had to stop the Buteyko exercises and take ventolin for a few days to WORSEN my asthma so I could finish this damn study! (and it worked!)

Right after that, I put Buteyko in my morning schedule, for half an hour. And I never touched my ventolin again; it's been two months and a few days (Since January 26). So, in a way, because of you folks, I can't make any more money! :) :) :) (How can I ever thank you enough?)

I still stick to my two puffs twice a day of becloforte, which I have been taking for some fifteen years. I'm still waiting for my CP to improve more. It has been improving in the last few days, in fact, I might try only three puffs for a while shortly, but I feel extremely prudent about it. I was always careful about the MP also, being stuck with the DIY method, so I'm doing CP's +10 seconds instead, followed by about three minutes of VSB. I wish I had enough discipline to do it at night too, but even this way the results are stunning. I can't wait to see my allergies go away. If you own a dog or a cat, you'd have to change clothes before coming over to my place!

This discussion list is of invaluable help to me; always motivating and fascinating.

Well, this was just to introduce myself and say THANKS ! keep up the good work!

Nicolas Lemieux

August 1st, 1998

[March 1997] [August 1998]

Hello group.

The time has come for an update in the long story of "My asthma and I", or "Me and my endangered asthma". It’s been more than 18 months now since I have started doing the Buteyko exercises. Until a couple of months ago, I have kept with my one half hour every morning regimen, with few exceptions, and gradually waned out of my steroid medication. I have done it extremely slowly, reducing the dose very gently, each time after 3 to 4 week to a month or two, depending on how I felt. Now, I could almost say I'm not taking anything for asthma anymore, but I still take one puff of Becloforte every 3 – 4 weeks, which is close to nothing at all, a rather symbolic dosage. I will stop taking it in the course of what’s left of this summer… that is, in about… say… one or two puffs!

Waning out of all asthma medication has been a great achievement for me, and has given me a lot of motivation and will to pursue my goals of better health. I have faith; I have seen the results already. And what’s more, thanks to the Buteyko method, I have been able to save a fair amount of money in medication in the last two years, for which I am most grateful.

Consequently, I decided, two months ago, to purchase one of the DIY kits available on the net (After re-reading Peter’s reviews, I decided to go with the video and manual by "Alternative Approach"). Now, with better knowledge of the technique, I have started doing the shallow breathing "by the book" ("by the video tape", should I say!), straight-seated, well focused, "flirting" with the lack of air, relaxing my chest, measuring my CP every 3 to 5 minutes and my pulse at the beginning and at the end of the session. I do this for half an hour, first thing in the morning , and right before going to bed at night.

I also do a third exercise session, in the morning as well, not too long after breakfast, when I still do my old technique, which has proven effective in my case: pauses that are a compromise between a simple CP and a full MP. I simply do a "generous" CP, and the add 10 seconds or more (lately, I've been adding 15 seconds), rounding up to the next 5 or 10 (If my CP is 14, then I will hold my breath until 14+10=24, rounded up to 25. If my CP is 18, then I hold up to 18+10=28, rounded up to 30). I do it for 30 to 40 minutes, with 3 minutes of gentle shallow breathing between each pause, during which I usually use the time to write in my journal. BTW, I think writing is an excellent quiet activity to associate SB with. All this exercising, every day, may seem like a lot, but I have made it my priority.

After this first year and a half of waning out of steroids, with only half an hour of Buteyko exercises every day, my CP hasn't improved a lot yet. It is still hovering around 13 – 15 at the beginning of the session and 18 – 20 at the end. So I have made it my next goal to see it get longer. My allergic reaction to cats, dogs and other hairy animals is still very strong. I have even felt, in the last months, that I was perhaps more sensitive than usual to these triggers, and I suppose it is due to my being in an adaptation phase in the process of waning out of steroids. I assume and I hope, now that this adaptation phase is almost over, and with more time and energy put into the exercises, that my CP should start to improve, and also my allergic sensitivity to decrease.

I have also started taping my mouth at night, using common 2 cm wide surgical tape (cloth tape?). I gave got used to it, and now it even feels comfortable! One short comment on this, though: Even though I have grown a beard lately, the tape stays in place, not always steadily, but it’s there to remind me to keep my mouth shot or else it’s going to fall off! Of course, every morning, there is this quiz: "Where am I gonna find this darn piece of tape this today?" It can be hiding many places. Wrapped around my thumb, stuck to the sheets, under my pillow, neatly folded on the shelf besides my bed, and even sometimes… still on my mouth! And it is true that on these occasions, when it is still stuck to my lips, I feel more rested and energized. But in several other cases, there is evidence to say it hasn't come off by itself: the work of some night fairy is probably at play here. Any suggestions to help on this? Should I wear handcuffs as well as tape on my mouth?

I'm only kidding, of course. The more I try, the more the tape spends the whole night on my lips. Actually, my taping technique has improved over the last few weeks. Instead of pinching my lips before applying the tape, I push them a little forward, exposing more lip surface for the tape to stick to. Once the tape is on and I relax my lips, it folds somewhat inwards and it feels like I am biting the tape with my lips. This way, the beard / no beard discussion becomes irrelevant, IMHO (I enjoyed lurking on the beard discussion anyway, folks! Especially Peter’s humorous comment about super glue for weight loss). I have found that I am still able to speak with the tape on, though in a weird voice, but I prefer kissing my girlfriend good night BEFORE putting the tape on. Well, that was the heck of a "short comment".

Now, after eight weeks of this new intensive Buteyko exercising, my CP hasn't really moved up a lot yet, but I notice my pulse reaching even lower levels than before. Lately, it has often come down to 60 or even below, right after a CP following a session of VSB. A few times, it has even quieted down to 52 beats per minute, which was a nice surprise and a great feeling.

My asthmatic friends have asked me about the method; I have printed Peter and Mark’s pages many times to give them to read, and now I have created a new web page of my own (follow the links at the bottom of this page). It is written in French (which BTW is my mother tongue), so maybe it can reach a whole new number of people. I believe it to be the very first French Buteyko web site and I am rather proud of it. If only it could contribute to this arduous change of paradigm Buteyko calls for! The site has been up for about two months, and already the little counter at the bottom of the main page is going ballistics… I have many ideas as to how to make it grow, but I will welcome any suggestion.

So there I am. Sorry if this has turned out to be a little long. I could go on and on rambling on about the Buteyko breathing method for days. Without fatigue. This is precisely what I intend to do in the future.

Nicolas Lemieux
[Email] [Nicolas Lemieux's Personnal Pages] [Nicolas Lemieux's Buteyko Web Site]

[March 1997] [August 1998]

[Back to the Personal Contributions Page]